SPARTANBURG, S.C.—The stage. The atmosphere. The noise.
The athletes on the other side of the scrimmage line.
None of that should be cripplingly overwhelming for Wofford's football team Saturday at perennial power and No. 2 overall seed North Dakota State in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs. The Terriers are pointing to their game less than three weeks ago at South Carolina as the perfect postseason primer.
Noise factor at the Fargodome, first of all, is real. It's considered one of the loudest stadiums in the country. During the 2012 playoffs, when Wofford made its only visit to NDSU, crowd volume was measured at higher than 111 decibels. That's like standing next to a chainsaw.
The Terriers worked on silent counts and hand signals—even between coaches on the sidelines—during the week of practice leading up to the South Carolina game and used those skills in Columbia. They'll need to do it again.
"South Carolina was a test and we did well with our communication," Wofford head coach Mike Ayers said. "They have all the bells and whistles and the loud crowd, all that. Pretty impressive. It's going to be kind of the same. But it's way louder at North Dakota State because it's an indoor facility. Offensively, it's tough. Those folks pride themselves in having the most difficult and loudest place to play. I know they've got my vote.
"There's the deal before the game when all the lights go out and here comes the noise and smoke and all that good stuff. But I don't think we're going to be shocked. I don't think we're going to be rubber-necking and then, all of the sudden, the ball is snapped. I think our guys will understand the moment and just be ready to play."
Although Wofford lost that game at South Carolina, 31-10, the Terriers can pick out some things they did against what is now a New Year's Day bowl team that builds confidence as much as anything they did in their 10 victories. On their opening drive, they went 79 yards on 14 plays and chewed up more than seven minutes. To start the second half, they went 75 yards on 10 plays, taking more than five-and-a-half minutes, for a touchdown that made it 14-10. The Gamecocks, concerned about the number of possessions they would get—and there were only eight for the game --went for it on fourth down three times.
"That was a great team. They have great athletes," Wofford quarterback Brandon Goodson said. "No offense to anybody in the FCS, but those were some of the best players that we were going to face the rest of the season. It was a challenge and we took it on pretty well. In my opinion, when you can compete against an SEC team, you can compete with anybody on our level."
South Carolina scored its last 10 points on possessions that started on Wofford's side of the field because of a fumble and turnover on downs. On two drives that ended in touchdowns, the Gamecocks took three plays to score from the 5 and three plays to score from the 6. That could be considered somewhat of a psychological boost for the FCS team that was without its starting nose tackle and two starting inside linebackers.
"I don't think we're going to see anything tougher than what we saw at South Carolina," Wofford defensive end Miles Brown said. "But, like always, we are focused on making ourselves better than we were in the last game."
Wofford College at North Dakota State
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Gate City Bank Field, Fargodome
Radio: 107.9-FM, 92.7-FM, 1660-AM